7 Easy and Brilliant Ways to Develop Gratitude
Welcome to the first year of the 20’s – if they were anything like 100 years ago, I expect some fabulous fashion right in lock step with significant socio-political discourse.
First, welcome to our new blog – I hope you like the bolder format, that is hopefully more easy to navigate and has an upgraded search bar for ease of finding older articles and topics – which include #hashtags.
This year, 2020, Nextpat is focused on supporting you with #practices to implement a better mental health space. This may be things like asking for support from work including #wellness packages or traits that have evidentiary support that they help build #resilience or well-being. Since Nextpat is focused on ensuring that you have the tools to support your best journey home, we’ll be focused on why and when it matters in repatriation and practices that you can adopt, not the trait or science itself.
If you have thoughts on topics you’d like covered, please do reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
For our first blog of 2020 we’re hearkening to a blog post I wrote in 2017 on Kindness as a resolution when we started our initial newsletters. This year, we look at #gratitude as a practice, one that can become a neural pathway that we call up more regularly to support our own well-being.
A quick Google search for Gratitude yielded the definition and then article upon article on the benefits of gratitude, with lists, with studies, basically anything you could ask for.
Since we are focused on #repatriation and practice, I’ll leave it to you to dive into the research, but I wanted to flag a few important things about gratitude for our purposes.
When returning from an assignment a new place, especially one that echoes familiarity can actually feel incredibly lonely. It can make us long for our community in another place and be frustrated with small things. This is especially true after all our expectations of the glory of being back have already been achieved or worse been dashed. The challenge to then re-adjust to the mundane can be difficult. It is in this moment, that gratitude can help us bounce back.
The word gratitude derives from the Latin “gratus” meaning pleasing or thankful. In the modern sense we tend to use it in the sense of grace or thankfulness for what we have (tangible/intangible). It is often used in a religious sense, though the practices are wholly non-denominational and we can express gratitude to those around us as much as other forces. The purpose it serves is ultimately to help us reframe our thoughts, and redirect our energies to a more positive place.
Importantly, gratitude, like many other traits takes practice. For some people, it comes quite naturally and is a personality trait. However, for others, we must cultivate the practice to help our minds go down the neural pathway towards gratitude more often and quickly than other pathways that might lead to less positive feelings. We’ll be talking more about habits and how our brains work in a future article.
The practice has long term effects and benefits, unlike many other health practices that have diminishing returns. However, it cannot be a rote practice, like running on a treadmill. To reap the benefits the practice must be consistent (as in regular) and you have to #digdeep to think about what you are grateful for – specificity and recognition of the cost of what you were given can help to unlock the wellspring of gratitude within you. For example, not just being grateful for family, but for a specific action by a family member that you know came when they were also in the midst of something else – their willingness to prioritize your desire or need at that moment can be a powerful reason to be thankful.
Similarly, #becreative in how you express gratitude. Doing the same thing can be boring and may lead to stopping the practice before you create the neural pathways to bolster the way you see the world. By seeking out new ways to appreciate the world, you are likely to see it in even more places. Do you remember the blog www.1000awesomethings.com? Neil Pasricha recorded one tiny thing each day that was amazing, when seen through his lens and it was a revelation. I’ve seen people do this on Instagram for a number of days or via vlog.
Being public about your gratitude can help encourage more of it if you get commiserate responses, which are inevitable. You could also try some of the practices below and change it up.
If you need to cultivate the practice when you are in a place where either you are feeling like nothing is going right or that everything comes easily to others, how can you #balance out that #perspective. Or, if you are in a great place and want to keep the good times rolling, what practices can help prime the pump to release more of that feeling?
1. A List of Things that you are Grateful for: Listing out when you are in a good place the things that make you happy or for which you are grateful and adding to it will be a great reference when you need a reminder. I have a list that includes at least 10 different fruits and it always makes me laugh.
2. Gratitude Journaling: Much has been written about gratitude journaling and the benefits of writing for just 5-7 minutes a day about what you are grateful for. Often, people start this practice and then give it up due to the time it takes or the other priorities we have – see what time works best for you. This is also one where we need to dig deep in order to ensure that the practice is effective. You may want to consider a journal with gratitude prompts, as they can help keep the practice from becoming stale.
3. Letters of Thanks to Those you Care about: This is a practice I’ve instituted during moves. When you are missing your community they are probably missing you too. Writing to them how thankful you are for their friendship and for modernity helping us to communicate is going to make you feel so much better as you reminisce about those good times. If you send the letters you also get a return investment when the recipients respond back!
4. Pause and Reflect on Normal Things and how to be Thankful for them: This goes back to www.1000awesomethings.com. Find a moment in your day to step back and reflect on something small happening and how amazing it is. Be grateful for that either in comparison to what it could be or simply for its existence.
5. Think of what you missed when you were gone that you now have access to. Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted the things we missed dearly when we were away. Stopping to reflect on that – the things you wanted (various foods, infrastructure, a time zone, access to Netflix without a VPN that kept dropping – whatever the case may be) – can help you appreciate the ease in having them now.
6. Reflect on the experiences that have been incredible and due to your travels. Either by looking at pictures or if you maintained a blog or anything else while traveling. Thinking through those opportunities and your experiences and being thankful for the chance to see or experience the world in this way can help prime your gratitude well. It’s also unique to your life of travel.
7. Create a gratitude jar (similar to the Things that Make you Happy list). Taking a moment to write down whatever you capture in a day or moment to be grateful for and tossing it into a jar gives you something to take out and reflect upon later – this can be particularly useful in moments of frustration or sadness and perhaps as renewal when big moments come to pass. It also helps you have a visual reminder to focus on and find things to be grateful for. A visual reminder might also encourage others to find things to be grateful in an effort to get onto one of your reminders – making the practice spread and including more opportunities for gratitude.
What are your ideas? What has worked for you? How do you show gratitude? Leave your comments below! I can’t wait to hear from you.